Caught by the River

Spring Equinox at the OVA

22nd March 2023

Lally MacBeth rings in Spring at Cornwall’s Heligan Gardens.

It is the Spring Equinox and we have gathered in the cafe at Heligan Gardens in Cornwall. Banners are strewn across the tables with slogans such as ‘Love is Contagious’ and ‘The People’s Magic’ splashed across them. Someone is cutting holes in tabards whilst drinking a flat white.

“The banner is here!”

Matthew Shaw appears holding a hand-painted Jamie Reid banner that reads ‘Sowing Seeds’.

In the toilets a Morris side, The WAD, get changed into balaclavas and bells.

Outside, Sue Hill collects Spring vegetation to decorate hats.

A gentle drizzle falls.

Today marks a special moment in the calendar. For one year Heligan Gardens has been home to an OVA symbol designed by Jamie Reid. Based on his eight fold year, it was mown into Valentines Meadow one year ago. It has seen Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and here, now, it will enter its final Spring before being ploughed back into the earth to make way for a heritage wheat crop.

Each season has been marked. Today is the end point, a moment of celebration of the coming Spring and of this unique and beautiful turning of an entire year. It is also the inaugural performance of The Pillars of Wonder, a musical and performative collaboration between Matthew Shaw and Richard Norris.

We gather and process to the OVA. Incense is lit by Joe Gray, who wears a mask made of twigs — The Holly King for a new age. Sue sings the folk song ‘Sorrows Away’ as we walk.

When we arrive at the OVA Matthew reads a dedication to Simon Emmerson written by Jamie Reid and a piece of writing to bring in the Spring. He asks us all to set our intentions for the coming season, to think of peace and the sowing of seeds as a way of sowing our intention.

Then for 23 minutes we process, there are four speakers with drones playing in A, and the sound of the WAD’s bells. The wind rustles. Although there are now around 20 of us walking the paths of the OVA there is a great sense of peace and reflection for me as I walk. Spring is coming. It is in the air and the new shoots springing from the earth beneath my feet.

Matthew and I hand out packets of wild seeds to everyone involved and ask them to plant them with intention. They were collected from wild flowers in the OVA at midsummer.

The next time we gather in this formation it will be time to bring in the May. 230 miles away in Kingston near Lewes we will dance, we will talk, and we will process. We will create another ritual in a new place. These seasonal moments of reflection, hope and community are so important in a world which turns ever faster. Pausing to notice the change, whether that be the leaves returning or the primroses emerging, is a radical act.


Tickets for our Mayday! Mayday! event in Kingston near Lewes on the 29th of April are running low. More info/tickets here.

Lally MacBeth is an artist, writer and researcher living in Cornwall. She founded The Folk Archive in 2020, and co-founded Stone Club with Matthew Shaw in 2021. 

She runs a regular night at The Social, and has programmed and curated events for London Short Film Festival and the British Museum. She has produced costumes for Gwenno, Pillars of Wonder and Hector Nit, and is a board member of Bosena Films. Lally is currently writing her first book. Visit her website here.